I think I can safely say that, after a month of more challenging priorities, my blog has taken a bit of a backseat in my life. Just for once this has not been due to procrastination, absent-mindedness or writer’s/blogger’s block. Not very much, anyway. On a more serious note, my whole family have been taking a step back from normality while dealing with my grandmother’s terminal illness and death, and all the practical and emotional implications. Times like this are not only very sad, but also surprisingly draining.
To begin with, I’ll say that Gill Farquharson-Pratt, aka Grannie was a very big part in the lives of all those in her family, myself included. She was a highly family oriented person, which meant that children, grandchildren and family connections in general were always of the utmost importance to her. In her grandchildren’s case, this meant going on fun outings, stocking up on junk food and making it clear that rules at home definitely did not apply with her and Grandad. She took a huge interest in everything we did, from new jobs, to first days at school, to concerts and shows, to our numerous cat anecdotes.
Besides relatives, one of the other loves of her life was pets. The last time I saw Grannie at her house, she was lying on the sofa under a blanket, which she promptly lifted to reveal a deeply unconscious Basil the Burmese cat, for whom sleeping under someone’s legs is just a fact of life. Having been working with computers seemingly within minutes of their invention, she was my blog’s number one fan, and a very keen Facebooker. I was reminded of this when I posted my latest Facebook status, and later found myself thinking how bare and incomplete it looked without her immediately “liking”, “commenting” and showing interest in every detail. I may grow out of expecting her to have read every status and blog post I’ve ever written but hey, only time will tell.
It was around the new year that Grannie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which spread to multiple other organs. In the months that followed, she seemed to go through more good patches than bad, making the most of every moment, and spending quality time with her family. She outlived her specialist’s expectations but went downhill very suddenly, within days of having received a very positive scan. She was rushed to hospital, where my mum, Grandad and uncles stayed at her bedside day and night.
My stepdad, sister and I went down to see her and when we entered her room, she opened her eyes wide and beamed as she gazed at us. She drifted out of consciousness after a few minutes, and did not open her eyes again after that. We spent our last day with her at the hospital to say our goodbyes and to support each other. It was that night that Grannie died, at 2am on Monday 20th May aged 69, surrounded by Mum, Grandad and my uncles. It was a tearful time for all, but she definitely died as she lived: surrounded by family.
The funeral was a couple of weeks later, and as funerals go, this one couldn’t have been more perfect. It was a beautiful summery day in the green countryside and everything went like clockwork. I played my violin at the reception, and I think Mum was only joking about playing a solo piece with spoons during the service, as she ended up doing a reading from Ecclesiastes instead. Most of us threw roses into the grave during the burial; my 2 and 4 year old cousins threw dandelions, blades of grass and whatever else they could find. After the reception, I went with other immediate family members back to Grandad’s house for some quality family time, alone time or a bit of both.
A month on, and I’m going through mixed emotions. I still feel a sense of guilt – why didn’t I communicate with Grannie more often? Why did I get too tense and nervous to tell her at the hospital what a wonderful grandmother she’d been? I go from feeling guiltily normal to down and depressed quite quickly, which isn’t fun if you’re not good at openly expressing emotion. One thing I am grateful for is not only being able to see her on her last day, but also the chance to deepen my relationship with the rest of my family, immediate and extended. That’s definitely one good thing that has come out of these recent months, and even more importantly it’s something Grannie would have approved of.